the garden
Article Appearing in"ROTH TEI-EN"
Journal of Japanese Gardens
page 3 of 4

On our first day, he lends me clippers and a belt, gives me a few pointers like, "Take out the ones that are growing straight up, and the ones hanging down," and "Leave the ones growing to the side," stoneand we set to work. Soon he also begins to teach me how to recognize the new buds and cut back to those.

Mr. Tagawa is a calm, quiet presence. Many people here become nervous around foreigners, but I am the 3rd foreigner that Mr. Tagawa has worked with, and he is used to it. Although there are still very few Japanese women in landscaping, it seems not to be an issue that I'm one.


In fact, Mr. Tagawa trusts me more than I'm comfortable with, given my huge level of ignorance about these trees. And I try to compensate by being extra careful. But even so, I worry about what this tree will look like when it grows out in a few months. I keep hoping that since Mr. Tagawa is working across from me, he's keeping an eye on what I'm doing, but I'm never sure. When I start feeling really lost about where to cut, I call him over and ask for advice.

Our pine-trimming lessons have continued mostly in this vein: a few instructions, a lot of practice, and little feedback. However, some days we just stay in his office, poring over a few of his many garden texts.


Besides being an expert on trees, Mr. Tagawa is very interested in the history and philosophy of Japanese gardens. I teach him a little English as we go along, because one of his goals is to make a garden in the U.S. someday.

Over time, I've had several other unique opportunities. When garden design expert Yotaro Ono was invited to speak to the local association, a few of us were given the chance to visit private gardens that he had designed in Kyoto. I was also invited to design a small garden for the yearly landscape design exhibit (with all materials and labor generously provided by Mr. Tagawa's company).

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